The Wedding Must Go On. Robyn Grady
and I decided that we needed a big investor to do this and do it right. Last week, a prospective investor landed in Sydney. On the phone, Bob Nichols liked our business model, was interested in hearing more but, having hundreds of balls to juggle while he was here, he was short on time. Before heading back to Texas, he made himself available at five a.m. last Sunday—the morning after Greg’s buck’s party.’
‘How does Greg’s father feel about his son leaving the family business?’
‘Mr Martin’s not happy. He’s supportive of Greg but in exchange for that support he expects total loyalty, to the family, to the company.’
Returning to the box, she extracted a white satin triangle no larger than a skewed playing card. With its thin elasticized straps dangling from her fingers, she moved to lay that piece beneath the counter too—alongside that garter and X-rated slip.
As her hand smoothed over the display Nate’s pulse quickened and beat in his ears because now he imagined Roxy standing in a dimly lit room wearing it all—garter, nightie, that provocative scrap of a thong. In his mind, while he lowered to kneel before her and shaped his palms over her hips, she sighed out his name, filed her fingers through his hair and, stepping closer, brought his head near.
From far away, he heard her ask, ‘So, was your Mr Nichols still interested after your meeting?’
The real world faded back.
‘Absolutely. Not that it matters. Greg and I spoke this morning. Since Marla called the wedding off, he’s lost all motivation. For the time being Greg’s staying on at PrimeSteel.’
‘Why not go ahead on your own? With Mr Nichols, I mean.’
Her tone added, And leave me alone.
‘This was our project and I know Greg will be sorry if he pulls out now.’
She cocked a brow. ‘And?’
He exhaled and gave it up. ‘And two heads with steel manufacturing knowledge are better than one.’
He was comfortable with his abilities but in business—in life—a person needed as much reinforcement as possible. It was a slippery slope into failure and obscurity. His own father’s descent into near poverty had taught Nate that lesson well.
Roxy dipped a hand back into that box. Before she could pull out God knew what, Nate swiped that box of goodies off the counter and set it safely on the floor.
‘I think,’ he said, ‘if we get Greg and Marla alone, she’ll hear his side of the story and accept that those pictures painted him in an unfair light.’
‘Oh, gee, you think?’
Studying her mock pitying look, knowing there was something more behind it, he said, ‘They’ll work this out.’
‘Then they’ll keep their date at the church,’ she surmised, ‘and you’ll get your business partner back.’
Correct. ‘Question is—are you on board?’
‘You must be hard of hearing. I already said count me out.’
‘Give me some time and I’ll convince you.’
Her too-kissable mouth tightened.
He growled, cursing under his breath. ‘Five lousy minutes. I have a plan. It could mean the difference between your friend’s ultimate happiness and a lifetime of loneliness.’
He frowned. ‘Yeah, well, it’s pretty damn important to them.’
‘And Mr Goodie-two-shoes you has nothing at stake.’
This time he bit back the growl and pierced her with a judgmental glare.
‘This isn’t about Greg and his buck’s party, is it? It’s not about whether you want to help stop your friend from making perhaps the biggest mistake of her life. You’re being obstinate and surly now because of what happened between us all those months ago. You felt jilted and you’re prepared to let your friend suffer because you have a beef with me.’
Her eyes rounded with affront and anger. ‘If you think that argument will help your cause, you have more ego than even I gave you credit for. Ever hear the saying, water finds its own level? You treat women like chattels. Chances are you choose friends of a similar nature. But neither of you like being called out for it.’
Words burned on the tip of his tongue, but he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of acting the way she anticipated and cutting her down. He was ready to tell her to forget he’d even suggested she help, forget he was ever here.
In fact, she could go to hell.
He strode for the exit, swung back the door and barely refrained from slamming it shut behind him. He was halfway down the busy city block, near colliding with oblivious passers-by, when the steam clouding his brain cooled a degree and his locomotive pace slowed down. As much as he was attracted to Roxanne Trammel, she was a giant thorn in his side. He’d be wise never to see her again, under any circumstances.
But, if he were truthful, he understood her upset over his departure that night. He’d never done such a thing before and apologizing as he’d hightailed it away didn’t rub off any of the tarnish. But Roxy didn’t want a confession. She did, however, want to help her friend. He was convinced that Marla should at least hear Greg out, and that wouldn’t happen unless he swallowed his pride, turned around and tried to persuade Roxy one more time.
Roxy was still standing at the counter in that wedding gown, staring blindly at the accessories under that glass counter, when the doorbell tinkled and, hat in hand, he edged inside the shop again. She looked over and, straightening, opened her mouth. But he held up a hand.
‘Before you run me out of town again, let me say I was a jerk for bringing up that other night. It won’t happen again. But I can’t walk away without asking you one more time to help give those two the chance they deserve, the chance Marla would want if she were thinking clearly.’
‘Maybe she is thinking clearly.’
Weary now, he exhaled. Her middle name was stubborn. ‘Just give me five minutes to tell you what I have in mind.’
She tilted her head, thought some more.
‘Five minutes?’ she finally said. ‘That’s it?’
‘Won’t even take that long.’
She almost grinned. ‘Anyone would think you were sure of yourself.’
‘About this, I am.’
She set her hands on her satin-clad hips. After another tense moment, she visibly relaxed and inspected her dress.
‘Let me change first.’ Her lips twitched. ‘I don’t want to give you hives.’
Moving through that back door again, she lobbed a final remark over her shoulder. ‘If someone happens to walk in looking for their perfect dress, tell them I’ll be right out.’
But it was well after five on a Friday—closing time. ‘Why don’t I just flip the sign over?’
‘Don’t you dare.’ He barely caught her last words as she disappeared out back. ‘I need every sale I can get.’
People in business had to be aggressive, but the energy behind that last remark was one hell of an admission. The way she’d spoken six months ago, Roxy lived for the thrill of owning this shop—for the privilege of personally contributing to the ‘magic of marriage’—but it sounded as if her enterprise wasn’t doing so well. Would she want to go ahead with helping Greg and Marla when she knew his plan? That she’d need to leave her shop unattended or alternatively manned for a few days? Perhaps if the deal included watching him being hung, drawn and quartered …
Admittedly, his behaviour